Why Do You Read?

Woman reading painting

I read because I want to live a thousand lives in one.

I read because books help me forget my body, which I dislike.

I read because for the trees in the forest being fashioned into books is the equivalent of going to heaven.

I read so I can write.

I read because through books I can explore the world from my comfortable chair, without having to go out my door, which is a dangerous business.

I read because every book is a forgotten dream.

I read because in the age I live it’s impractical for me to ride a gryphon, or slay a dragon, or tickle a queen’s belly with a paintbrush – it’s only through books that I can do all these.

I read because from books I learn things about me that I have always knew I knew but that I could not remember on my own.

I read because the smell of ink on paper is the loveliest smell in the world.

I read because if I do not, I would not know that Aureliano saw ice for the first time in the gypsies’ tent, or that Roland burst his temples blowing his oliphant, or that Tyrion killed his father with a crossbow while the man sat on the privy, or that Brutus ran on the sword Strato held, or that Sydney Carton swapped places with Charles Darnay because he loved Lucie so much…

I read because in autumn I look through my window at the rustling leaves and wonder what they are whispering about.

I read because every book is a deep sigh, a regret its author could not sigh in any other way.

I read to learn things I do not really need to learn but which I like to boast with knowing, like the fact that Aldous Huxley was still a virgin at the age of 26.

I read because a book is more personal and more profound than a film can ever be.

I read because books tell me the names of all the girls and women with whom I had been secretly in love over the years, names that I had been unable to discover otherwise, because of cowardice, of unfavorable circumstances, or of romantic misfortunes…

I read because reading gives me hope. If books teach anything, then it’s this: those who keep trying eventually succeed.

(Republished from an older post. Abridged and slightly changed.)

63 thoughts on “Why Do You Read?

  1. I like this for this part: “I read because in a book I can find the name of the girl I saw on the street that rainy day in June, the girl who carried a rainbow-colored handbag and who rolled her inky hair behind her ear… That day when I was too shy to tell the taxi driver to stop, and to get out, and to walk to her, and ask her name, and her phone number, and to marry me…”, and for you to get out of the taxi next time and ask her name and her phone and to marry you.

    Cross my fingers 🙂

      1. Beautifully expressed. My best one was : For me the best one was I read because in the age I live it’s impractical for me to ride a gryphon, or slay a dragon, or tickle a queen’s belly with a paintbrush – it’s only through books that I can do all these.

  2. I love this! I may have to do this on my blog – it’s just wonderful reading all of your reasons. That last reason takes the cake though, swoon.

    1. Cassie, the name of your blog is curious and curiouser. Now I’ll go to sleep listening to the eerie whispers trapped beneath my pillow. Tomorrow I’ll make investigations.

  3. “I read because for the trees in the forest becoming a book is the equivalent of going to heaven.”

    I never leave this site without being awed at least once.

  4. Hello Vincent. Thanks for the ‘like’ on my picture haiku. I meandered to your list of books – inspiring. I’ve got just one in my ‘About’: The Grapes of Wrath – just as wrathful now as I was when I first read it about 55 years ago!

  5. Hey Vincent. Really, really great post.

    I MAY have tweeted it a bit and I MAY have submitted it on reddit. Here’s hoping you get increased traffic…. (you deserve it)

    1. So it was you Johann!

      I noticed some strange things happening lately, but I did not know who was responsible for them.

      I’ll pay you back by writing more good stuff in the future.

      I tip my hat to you.


  6. SO many reasons to read, and you have listed possible all of them and phrased them so eloquently. You say if I post a comment you will leave me a gift. Well, I will like to leave you a gift as well – I would like to nominate you for the One Lovely Blogger award – http://wp.me/25ZF2. Your posts are A-Mazing, and I constantly look forward to reading them. Thank you 🙂

    1. Michelle, ma belle,
      this are words that go together well…

      You know that Beatles song named after you?

      I take a bow. If I win do I get a new hat? I’m excited!

      I tip my hat.

  7. I love this–it’s like a multi-multi-course meal, every one more delicate and essential than the last.

  8. I read because it fills me up and allows me to write.

    I just finished reading “The Hobbit” (for the 10th time). It’s the first book I’ve finished in probably 6 months. Maybe because I’m writing again I can read again.

  9. Great stuff. I could have ticked quite a few of those as my own….also always look forward to the artworks that accompany your words. You deserve a new hat!

  10. I read because every time I open a book, I am drawn into a world that is different from my own. And for that brief time, I am somewhere else, someone else, on a journey that is magical.

    I read because writers keep writing.

    I read because I must. I cannot not read.

  11. Wonderful. Can I just steal what you wrote and say “THAT’S WHY” I read? You really put it down nicely, and everyone else here too. I don’t read so much anymore though, not for pleasure anyhows. I only read to pass exams :*( What I love about books though, even those about studies, is that they are a whole universe waiting to be explored 😀 And good books make you (or the notion of you) dissapear for a while.

    Maybe I just rather enjoy observing stuff, and feeling them, without actively participating? ‘You’ don’t have to do or decide anything when you read, just relax and let your mind imagine things… Yeah, I wasn’t really fan of heavy books although I bumped in to them waay to often…
    Okey, I’ll stop now. .. Nice entry, you keep giving me food for thought 😉

  12. I read because I don’t express my thoughts into words well, and I enjoy people who can. So I shall be stealing all your reasons, which sound much better and more colorful than what I said.

  13. an inspiration in more than appear on this page. well, conceived collection of prompts to read. i read particularly fiction’ to be carried away into another place, whether it be time, place or a whole new world. while i am there then there is no here for a while. i can be absorbed into the life in the book which has faded into a far away dreamland. it is most difficult to return but if i haven’t reached the end then i can return and continue on in this other world and all its magic and difference from this one i live in now. that is just one reason i read. thank you. peace. jk

  14. This is really great! I teach some classes of English to non-native speakers abroad and they are always questioning the importance of reading. I might have to show them this piece (excluding a few more adult theme lines). If there are no objections? Really great job.

  15. If I want to single out one reason, among the many you gave, as not being applicable to me, I won’t be able to.
    All of those are my reasons (and yours, Vincent.)… If only I could put them half as beautifully as you do.

    I read because I do.

  16. Well said/written! What struck me most is: “I read because from books I learn things about me that I have always knew I knew but that I could not remember on my own.”

    After all, books are written by people and sometime, somewhere, somehow, there is someone who experienced something similar to you and put pen to paper : )

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